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The King in the Tree: Three Novellas
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375415408, Hardcover)In The King in the Tree, Pulitzer Prize-winner Steven Millhauser's brilliant collection of three novellas, there's one human constant: deception. The lovers in these three long stories range from a contemporary American housewife to the legendary Don Juan to Tristan and Ysolt, but the love affairs recounted here never add up to a simple geometry of two. In "Revenge," a frightening monologue, a widow gives a tour of her house to her dead husband's mistress. In "An Adventure of Don Juan," that hot-blooded Spaniard heads to the cooler climes of England and unwittingly turns a love triangle into more of a love square. This tale is set in a country manor and has the lapidary beauty of a Gainsborough painting. If the first two stories are exquisitely done, the retelling of Tristan and Ysolt is a small masterpiece. The story of the lovers is recorded by Thomas of Cornwall, advisor to the king and reluctant protector of illicit love. He closes the book with these words, which could be a description of Millhauser himself: "I, Thomas of Cornwall, prince of parchment, lord of black ink, king of all space, summoner of souls, guardian of ghosts, friend of the pear tree and the silence of waves, companion to all those who watch in the night." This book joins Jane Stevenson's Several Deceptions and John Fowles's The Ebony Tower on the short shelf of magical novella collections. --Claire Dederer
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:23 -0400)
""Revenge" is a tour de force about erotic love and betrayal, told through the voice of a woman showing her home to a stranger with a disturbing secret. As the once-happy wife moves from living room to bedroom, she insinuates herself into her guest's (and the reader's) mind - and we witness the gradual unfolding of a carefully meditated scheme of revenge." ""An Adventure of Don Juan" and the title novella transform classic fables into immediate, wholly original tales of romance. The first puts the famous lover on a country estate in England, where he attempts to perpetrate a brilliant seduction only to discover something surprising about the human heart. In the mesmerizing "The King in the Tree," Millhauser explores devotion and denial, casting the tragedy of Tristan and Ysolt as an engrossing tale of a king's infatuation with his beautiful wife - and the agony of her betrayal with his own nephew."--BOOK JACKET.
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